Manifold Greatness: Oxford and the Making of the KJV

Friday, 22 April 2011 - Sunday, 4 September 2011
Location: Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford , United Kingdom
Organisation: The Bodleian Library
Topic: Bible


In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible in 1611

The Bodleian Library summer exhibition tells the story of the most frequently printed book in English language, the King James Bible. Exploring the political, religious and intellectual context of its time, the exhibition looks at the events and conditions that led to and shaped this translation enterprise.

Commissioned by King James I of England (1566-1625), the translation was the outcome of the laborious efforts of 47 scholars  located in Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster. Drawing on the Bodleian holdings, the rich resources of collegiate libraries from around the University of Oxford, and collections elsewhere, the exhibition specifically showcases the contribution of the Oxford translation committees, of which notable members were John Rainolds (President of Corpus Christi College), Henry Savile (Warden of Merton College) and Miles Smith (Corpus Christi and Brasenose College).

The King James translation of the Bible had an immediate cultural and social impact in 1611 and has become ubiquitous in British and American culture.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • the sixteenth-century Bibles used in the making of the KJB ( such as the 'Great' Bible (1539), the Bishops' Bible (1568), the Geneva Bible (1576) and Douai-Rheims (1582));
  • an Old English manuscript with verse renderings of Genesis and Exodus;
  • surviving leaves from Tyndale's translation of the Pentateuch or five books of Moses (1530);
  • a velvet bound Bishops' Bible that belonged to Queen Elizabeth I (1568);
  • a 1602 Bishops' Bible annotated by some of the translators of the King James Bible;
  • a copy of the 1611 King James Bible owned by James' son Prince Henry;
  • contemporary copies of the working notes of John Boys, one of the Cambridge translators;
  • reference works from the libraries of John Rainolds and Henry Savile used for the translation

The exhibition is a project organised by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford in association with the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC where some items from the Bodleian exhibition will be on display at the Folger's related exhibition in Autumn 2011.

An illustrated publication with contributions from established British and American scholars across the disciplines of history, theology, English literature and Biblical studies will accompany the exhibition.

There will also be a series of four public lectures in association with the exhibition, to take place in Oxford during Hilary (Spring) Term 2011.

Society of Biblical Literature Nida Wallspace Gallery Westminster Abbey Historic Royal Palaces